Dean Gillian Lester smiling while wearing an orange jacket

Gillian Lester

  • Dean and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law
Education

J.S.D., Stanford University, 1998
LL.B., University of Toronto, 1990
B.Sc., University of British Columbia, 1986

Areas of Specialty

Employment Law and Policy
Contracts

Gillian Lester is Dean and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. 

As Columbia Law’s 15th dean, she has led the faculty in recruiting nearly two dozen full-time professors, establishing six new law clinics, and strengthening and expanding the Law School’s intellectual and scholarly depth. 

Through landmark investments in student financial aid and loan repayment assistance—and initiatives such as the Max Berger ’71 Public Interest/Public Service Fellows Program—Dean Lester has dramatically expanded access to a Columbia legal education, as well as students’ ability to choose a career in the public interest. Under Dean Lester’s leadership, the Law School created a new Executive LL.M. in Global Business Law degree program and has undergone a transformation of its physical and digital campus infrastructure. In addition, she has spearheaded programs dedicated to lawyer-leadership, organizational character, science and technology policy, and constitutional democracy. Dean Lester has also guided the Law School in its successful five-year campaign to raise $300 million, which she launched in 2017. 

Prior to joining Columbia in 2015, Dean Lester served on the faculty of the University of California, first at UCLA and later at Berkeley Law School, where she was interim dean from 2012 to 2014. Her scholarship focuses on income inequality, public finance policy, workplace law, and the design of social insurance laws and regulations. Dean Lester obtained a B.Sc. from the University of British Columbia, an LL.B. from the University of Toronto, and a J.S.D. from Stanford Law School.

Dean Lester is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Law Institute. She served on the executive committee of the Association of American Law Schools from 2017 to 2020 and is a founding board member of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. For her service on the COVID-19 Task Force established by Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger ’71, Dean Lester was recognized in 2022 with Columbia’s Nicholas Murray Butler Gold Medal for distinguished contributions in academic administration.

Publications

Books

  • Employment Law Cases and Materials, (with Willborn, Schwab & Burton), LexisNexis, 2022, (7th edition)
  • Family Security Insurance: A New Foundation for Economic Security, Workplace Flexibility, 2010, and Berkeley Center for Health, Economic and Family Security, 2010
  • Jumping the Queue: An Inquiry into the Legal Treatment of Students with Disabilities, (with Mark Kelman), Harvard University Press, 1997

Articles and Chapters

  • “Age Discrimination and Labour Law in the United States,” (Mia Ronnmar and Ann Numhauser-Henning eds.), Age Discrimination in Labour Law, Kluwer Law International, 2015
  • “‘Keep Government Out of My Medicare’: The Search for Popular Support of Taxes and Social Spending,” (Michael Sherraden and Marion Crain eds.), Working and Living in the Shadow of Economic Fragility, Oxford University Press, 2013
  • “Can Joe the Plumber Support Redistribution? Law, Social Preferences, and Sustainable Policy Design,” Tax Law Review, 2011
  • “Beyond Collective Bargaining: Modern Unions and Social Solidarity,” (Brian Langille and Guy Davidov, eds.), The Idea of Labor Law, Cambridge University Press, 2011
  • “Restrictive Covenants and Choice of Laws: An American Perspective,” Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal, 2010
  • “A Defense of Paid Family Leave,” Harvard Journal of Law & Gender, 2005
  • “Unemployment Insurance and Wealth Redistribution,” UCLA Law Review, 2001
  • “Restrictive Covenants, Employee Training, and the Limits of Transaction-Cost Analysis,” 76 Indiana Law Journal, 2001
  • “Careers and Contingency,” Stanford Law Review, 1998

View a list of Gillian Lester’s publications

Remarks and Testimony

Honors and Awards

Elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

2021